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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Resource Allocation

I know this has been covered elsewhere, and even featured on Homeland, but it is still fascinating. Ordinarily, the hard-wired misanthrope coursing my veins would compel me to shrug and say "fuck 'em," but I'm in awe of the ingenuity and fortitude of these folks. We jabber about wealth inequity and poverty in the US, but it ain't jack shit to what goes on routinely in the rest of the world.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Home On Derange

So professional asshole Sean Hannity and his comically large head have made welfare rancher and incoherent goofball Cliven Bundy into some sort of martyr -- for what, besides not paying his grazing fees for over 20 years, I have no idea.

One can acknowledge possible additional sides to Bundy's story -- such as how much he was recompensed when the BLM took his land in 1993, or if Rory Reid really does have some sort of sweetheart deal in the works to purchase neighboring land for a Chinese-owned solar farm (answer: he doesn't) -- but there's no excusing the crazy that Bundy and his whackjob cohort have escalated this to. There's no excusing would-be militiamen who openly bragged about using their wives and daughters as human shields, if the BLM agents opened fire. There's no rationalizing the desire these goofballs nurse, to have this situation turn into a Ruby Ridge or Waco.

And there's no getting around that fact that Bundy seems to think he's the living reincarnation of John Fucking Wayne, a smirking narcissist who can't get his story straight about whether he obeys a state government (whose state constitution professes that the federal government is the absolute authority), or rides the range hoisting a giant American flag, banner of a government Bundy smugly proclaims that he doesn't acknowledge the existence of.

The feds weren't going to win this one any which way -- if they had pressed beyond tasing Bundy's adult idiot son, they ran the risk of an armed standoff, but almost as bad, they just showed that they will back down when confronted, that a bunch of surly galoots with an imaginary axe to grind can scare them off. Look for more of these to start popping up, at least as long as the black guy is in the White House.

In the meantime, as always, enjoy yet another meaningless spectacle of armed buffoons going apeshit over something that has nothing to do with them. This is the same species of dunce that self-actualized their stance on "free speech" by waddling down to Chick-Fil-A, and joining a Facebook page to "stand with" a fake hillbilly millionaire who sells them overpriced duck calls and cheap branded shit at Walley World.

The Big Bunk Theory

Some say a comet will fall from the sky, followed by meteor showers and tidal waves.
Followed by faultlines that cannot sit still. Followed by millions of dumbfounded dipshits.
-- Tool,├ćnema


Articles about poll outcomes, especially ones that have sociocultural elements to them, are always problematic and incomplete. What was the sample size, and the geographic range thereof? What was the phrasing of the question(s)? Margin of error, confidence level?

All that said, no doubt we each know enough bona-fide bozos, proud of their nincompoopery, to at least intuit that even if the numbers might be a bit hinky, there is still a substantial -- and any size is unacceptable, but this is a number probably large enough to sway elections -- swath of folks who fall into this range of shameless intellectual boobism.

Certainly there is a measurable correlation between political "conservatism," or what passes for it these days, and the stubborn refusal to believe the findings of scientific method and empirical observation, or to even understand what those things are, and what they mean. And there is additional correlation between those things, and having a regressive, anachronistic outlook on the world, informed by whatever hodgepodge of religious dogma insinuates itself through their transoms and into their brain stems.

But religion and politics only partially explain this phenomenon; one does not have to look too far back or around to find examples of believers and/or conservatives who still understood the scientific role in explaining the mechanics behind physical and natural conditions. Perhaps the most pernicious part of all this is how the average 'murkin has actively distanced themselves from what used to be conventionally understood and accepted principles of arguing a point, and mustering facts and analysis to support that point.

It scarcely bears mentioning that there is no real forum for "debate" any more -- you either have the staid, canned bullshit of the Sunday morning political follies, hacks trotting out stale arguments that have the veneer of thought, but always end up in support of the insect overlords; or you have the pro-wrasslin' cable bonobos flinging shit at everything within reach of the monkey house. Whoever's loudest, or the biggest asshole, wins.

Most of the time, we prefer scoreboards to tell us who the winner is in a contest. Probably only on matters of scientific consensus are people so willing, so eager, to toss the literally 99% of career scientists who have weighed in with peer-reviewed data and observations on things such as evolution, climate change, the age of the earth, how the universe was formed and expanded. Suddenly a statistically overwhelming proportion, an almost unanimous response of individuals who have spent the majority of their lives studying this stuff, is cynically cast as corrupt, suspect, and therefore meaningless.

That's the downside of the internets, empowering drooling morons with the ability to sharpen their electronic crayons and inflict their ignorance on everyone. It's much easier to spout nonsense and conjecture, raise idle speculation, than to actually read up on the subject one is attempting to dispute. Obviously, it affects our ability to compete in areas such as science and engineering, as well as leaving these sorts of folks vulnerable to the cheapest demagoguery. It explains a great deal, though; if you're still wondering how people can be so easily bamboozled into voting against their own rational self-interest, not just once but every goddamned time, there ya go. They're gullible because they want to be gulled.

As in politics, it is of little use to attempt to convince them, best to ignore them if at all possible. It's a strange irony that the most ignorant tend to be in the most vulnerable areas, and when the deluge comes, whether literal or figurative, suddenly they may decide to learn to swim. See you down in Arizona Bay.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

This Week In Stupid

There are a multitude of legitimate arguments to made against the idea of Hillary Rodham Clinton becoming preznit of these here Untied States [sic]. Not one of them is that she will be a grandmother this time next year.

I know we're supposed to agree -- and I think we all really do agree -- that this sort of Entertainment Tonight type of newz burbling should be instantly marginalized. It's completely unacceptable outside the Hoda 'n' Kathie Lee gettin'-yer-swerve-on housewife porn that afflicts the teevee Morning Zoo shows.

While this gentle bloggery will most likely not be in operation come the benighted Year of Our Bored 2016, you can see some of the reasons why right here and now. For one, I despise, right down to the cellular level, the prospect of Hillary! versus Jeb! being presented as some sort of legitimate choice, that that is the best this nation can do. And that probably north of two billion dollars will be expended in the investiture of one of these toadying dynastic creatures, that there is an entire industry set up to legitimize the installation of whoever manages to give Shelly Adelson the best head as someone who will do a fucking thing for anyone besides themselves, their donors, and their ideological dependents.

But more, much more than all that mere fluff and folderol, I fucking hate with a white-hot passion anyone who thinks they can and should turn an honest buck by "raising" such idiotic "questions" about Hillary Clinton's impending grandmother-dom in the guise of honest gumshoe journamalism. Such people should be ignored immediately and permanently, until they land in the l'enfer c'est les autres cauldron of shit that is E! News.

All Poodles Are Dogs, But Not All Dogs Are Poodles

I've seen Ayaan Hirsi Ali in a number of interview and panel segments over the years, and I get where this writer is coming from, in that Hirsi Ali is one of the more caustic critics of Islam in general, and militant Islamists in particular. I suppose having one's clitoris forcibly removed, and having a friend murdered in the street, with a death threat to oneself attached to said murder victim, will sort of do that to a person.

That said, it is a crude comparison at best to categorize the collective lumping of over a billion individuals in with the few thousand most violent practitioners, with anti-Semitic or anti-gay criticisms. It shouldn't even need to be said that, while perhaps Jews and gays no longer face the horrors of genocide or systematic violence, it really hasn't been all that long since they did face those things (and in fact still do in many countries -- how are gays faring these days in, say, Uganda or Iran?).

It is not fair to insinuate that all Muslims are responsible for the actions of a small but virulent percentage of lunatics, but when seemingly nothing at all is said or done in that regard, it doesn't absolve them from any responsibility whatsoever to address the issue. The experiences Hirsi Ali has endured in her life, both from outdated "cultural" traditions and from ideological fanatics, are real, and for many areas in the world, still normative. I mean, ten bucks to the first person who can guess the religion of the folks behind this, or this.

I don't know what to make of people who emigrate to other countries that already have long-established legal systems, and expect those new places to conform to the female-hating third-world holes they left behind. It can be difficult to parse cultural norms from religious precepts in many instances, but uh, I can assure you that as a decadent, hedonistic westerner, I am a great deal more offended by the consistent treatment of women as illiterate chattel, than they are by a satirical drawing of the prophet (PBUH). But since I am a rational person, and not guided and goaded by this or that collection of Levantine folk tales and regressive sky-buddy whispering, I can fight their bad ideas with better ideas, and still express my resentment at my own gubmint thinking that it can and should handle the situation with a fleet of killbots raining hell on villages. Some of these folks seem not to have made that seemingly modest intemellectual leap.

It might be more productive for concerned Muslims to address the fanatics in their attic already, instead of raising false equivalences about what sort of speech is offensive, as if the typical respective reactions to being offended were remotely the same -- someone maybe losing their job for talking shit about Jews or gays, versus riots and violence over comic strips and movies.

Off-topic but still fun, given the post title:  the one and only Ken Ham discourses on poodles.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

It's Not a Bug, It's a Feature

The latest and greatest from the most transparent administration evar:
This week, it came to light that a small error in the open-source OpenSSL implementation of the SSL encryption protocol opened a gaping hole in the security of hundreds of thousands websites and networking equipment across the Net—and that hole had been wide open and exploitable for years. Passwords could be easily grabbed. User names matching those passwords could be easily grabbed. Heck, userdata could be easily grabbed. The “Heartbleed” moniker attached to the devastating bug seemed all too apt.

And Friday afternoon, Bloomberg reported that the National Security Agency has been aware of and actively exploiting the Heartbleed bug for at least two full years, citing “two people familiar with the matter.”

....

Leaked NSA documents provided to reporters by Snowden have revealed an agency casting a wide—and often domestic—surveillance dragnet, spying on American emails and web searches, gobbling up metadata from smartphones en masse, and even tapping into the internal communication infrastructures of Internet giants like Yahoo and Google.

A September Snowden-supplied revelation revealed that the NSA can easily defeat many of today’s encryption technologies, and in an aside that now seems precognizant, the SSL protocol was then rumored to be a particular favored target for the Agency.
Keep that in mind as you're "choosing" between Candidate Coke and Candidate Pepsi.

Offensensitivity

Perhaps because the majority of the country has changed so much and so quickly on the issue, "gay marriage" is developing a set of meta-issues, and rather absurd ones at that. Now the question is longer whether discriminating against gay couples bears the same nasty whiff that discriminating against interracial couples did 40-50 years ago.

The most recent and persistent epiphenomenon is the martyrdom meme, perhaps best characterized in the self-imposed travails of Duck Dynasty honcho Phil Robertson and Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich, the latter who was forced to resign for his contribution to California's Proposition 8 campaign back in 2008. So now Conor Friedersdorf's correspondent seems to epitomize the sort of person who feels aggrieved at whatever chilling effect is supposed to have taken place, as far as "allowing" what the aggrieved feel is legitimate difference of opinion.

And so it is, to a certain extent. Ostensibly, one of the great strengths of this country is that everyone has the right to be wrong, and even to be an asshole about it, so long as said opinion picks no pockets and breaks no arms. And that's where the problem arises, since in more than half of US states, you can be fired just for being gay in the first place, forget trying for a supposedly meaningless equal right to get married.

Nothing in life is absolute, and this applies to the Bill of Rights as well; you can't yell "fire" in a crowded theater, and you can't bring an assault rifle into a courthouse. There are balances that are struck all along the way in these sorts of debates, and hey guess what -- the First Amendment doesn't apply to companies and places of work. You can be an asshole, and other people can call you such. That's how it works.

That means that you can -- and should -- be fired from your job if you, say, host a website that advocates race war or features the crushing of small animals for the amusement of fucking creeps, even if such things happen not to be against the law (inexplicably, in the latter instance). You can, in fact, be fired from your job just for saying something impolitic, if your boss happens to feel that said speech costs the company sales and revenue. This is not exactly a secret or a surprise, and yet here you have grown-ass adults genuinely shocked that their sincerely, deeply held spiritual beliefs do not automatically grant them immunity from the consequences of discourse.

That's at least part of the reason why so many of us choose to blog in relative anonymity -- not to completely absolve ourselves from any and all consequences of what we might say out here on the internets, but because we are aware that even if we say something that is logical and accurate, we can still be held liable for it, if it has an adverse (or even a potential or perceived) impact on any organization we might be part of.

This particular issue is an opportunity to examine the idea that one's beliefs, no matter how sincere, do not automatically immunize them from participating in the same verbal scrum as the rest of us. I promise you, the small hint of opprobrium, of "hate" and "fear" as the CF correspondent put it, is a drop in the bucket compared to what "outsider" groups have felt even in the last generation or two, from gays to atheists to civil rights and antiwar protesters.

I think those folks and many others would find the idea hilarious, that someone could say something they have a pretty good idea will hit a significant portion of people the wrong way, and still expect to be exempt from even legitimate criticism (as opposed to, you know, the discrimination and violence that many dissenting groups have routinely faced). It may not be 100% "fair" to ostracize or fire someone for voicing the "wrong" opinion, but it is also not the duty of the rest of society to wait around for these people to start unpacking their ideological baggage, and letting it go, once and for all.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Poetry Corner

Apropos of very little, check out the verses of inspiration from one of Edroso's commenters. That's just awesome right there.

Blast from the Past

In combing through nearly a full decade of posts to assemble a decent compilation of the antics that have transpired here, I'm finding a lot of past nuggets that are worth resurrecting. So call it "Throwback Thursday" or whatever, but here is the first what will be a weekly (or so) revisiting of a classic post.


Atlas Smugged

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Kiss of Debt

The band Kiss (or, as The Army would have it, KISS) occupy a rather odd place in my musician's psyche. During their prime, I never really understood the appeal, comic-book splashes of fake fire and fake blood over cheesy chord progressions and thinly veiled cock rock.

Then they fell for the disco schtick, and even produced a poorly-received concept album, well after the whole "concept album" idea was dead and buried. Too bad, so sad. The smart kids had moved on to Rush, who somewhat ironically had gotten their big break as the opening act on one of Kiss' tour legs at their commercial height.

But as I got into actually playing in front of crowds, seeing what they wanted and what they tended to be attuned to, the whole cheesy package started to make more sense. Every band sells out to some degree, and even total sellouts such as Kiss still had points where they wanted to flex nuts and show chops and such.

Enter Vinnie Vincent, one of the more contentious, prickly folks to inject himself into what is (you'll be surprised to find) a rather people-oriented business. As a kid in the early '80s with a voracious appetite for any and all types of music, and a fairly photographic memory for notable quotes and quirky tics, to me Vincent stood out as the sort of person who seemed to be on a mission to make the blustery wunderkind Yngwie Malmsteen look quiet and contemplative.

As you can see from the embedded solo video from the RS article, Vincent's playing falls under the classic proto-shred grouping of jizz-lobbing, monkey-spanking speed dabblers, who had never heard of "taste" and barely bothered with tone, thinking that some distortion and a furious flapping of fingers would compensate for a lack of imagination and musicality. It's the sort of stuff that made This is Spinal Tap so true to life. At least Malmsteen actually had considerable tone, taste, and melodic sensibility to back up his arrogant demeanor.

Hair metal actually progressed pretty quickly along that decade, in terms of musicianship -- on the one hand, you had shredders like Paul Gilbert, Nuno Bettencourt, and Vito Bratta throwing down innovative, technically proficient melodies; on the other, you had "feel" players like Slash and Mick Mars, who were really great players in the mold of Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page, but overshadowed by the singers they worked with, and the drama of their bands. I can give you a list of great players from that era, makeup and all, but personally, Vincent would not be on that list. He was a dick in interviews, deliberately so, and again his playing was just a random flurry, a buzzing hive of bees.

Still, musical criticism aside, Vincent's story since getting kicked out of Kiss is interesting, weird, sad, almost poignant.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Teaching Americans Geography

From the WaPo Monkey Cage:
On March 28-31, 2014, we asked a national sample of 2,066 Americans (fielded via Survey Sampling International Inc. (SSI), what action they wanted the U.S. to take in Ukraine, but with a twist: In addition to measuring standard demographic characteristics and general foreign policy attitudes, we also asked our survey respondents to locate Ukraine on a map as part of a larger, ongoing project to study foreign policy knowledge. We wanted to see where Americans think Ukraine is and to learn if this knowledge (or lack thereof) is related to their foreign policy views. We found that only one out of six Americans can find Ukraine on a map, and that this lack of knowledge is related to preferences: The farther their guesses were from Ukraine’s actual location, the more they wanted the U.S.  to intervene with military force.

When we talk about things that are literally impossible to parody, and are really just too pathetic to contemplate, this is what we're referring to. But it explains a lot.